Thanks to the Internet, the saying "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em"
has given rise to a generation of women (and men) who have
parlayed their industrious proclivity into a business—a full-on,
legitimate and even successful business. In large part, in years
past, launching a business took (a lot of) money, and if you didn't
have it, you were forced to adhere to the rules, regulations, wants
and whims of the establishment.
Nowadays, the term "join 'em" doesn't mean assimilating into the masses and prostrating at the feet of the company/industry/job you want; it means creating the company/industry/job you want, outside of the confines and limitations of what already exists.
And this is why it's a great time to be alive.
Here, in her own words, Rana DiOrio talks about Little Pickle Press, the very 21st-century multimedia publishing house that she founded—after attempting to publish her own set of children's books. With passion, drive, ambition and the desire to contribute to the greater good in a more dynamic and impactful way, Rana circumvented the stale mandates of an industry whose ideas and ideals, once innovative and inspiring, had stalled, and cooked up a fresh and exciting way to empower Generation Next to engage with and be empowered by the good old-fashioned written word.
And so the story goes:
While taking some time off after the birth of our third child, I wrote three manuscripts for children’s picture books. The feedback I received from those I trust was that they were worthy of publication, so I researched how best to do this. What I discovered is that the publishing industry has not yet caught up with the 21st century. It is substantially similar to the way it was decades ago despite the fact that technology has changed how we seek, purchase, absorb, consume, interact with, share and critique media. The other thing I observed was that we, as consumers of children’s media, have come to desire a lot more than what is readily available. We want high-quality content for our children with take-away messages that are meaningful. If we gave it further thought, we would probably also want the materials to be printed and distributed in an environmentally friendly manner that is mindful of fair trade and sustainability practices. As I didn’t find any options like this available to publish my manuscripts, I founded Little Pickle Press.
Little Pickle Press is dedicated to helping parents and educators cultivate conscious, responsible little people by stimulating explorations of the meaningful topics of their generation through a variety of media, technologies and techniques. Why do we do this? There is a growing body of research that substantiates the constructivism approach to learning. According to Branscombe and colleagues (2003), “Constructivism is a theory of knowing that emphasizes the role each person plays in constructing his or her own knowledge rather than absorbing it directly from the environment. The focus is on children’s creation of knowledge rather than what others consider important knowledge.” Lisenbee (2009) goes on to explain: “Constructivism highlights children’s own role in learning, how they build their own understanding of experiences, especially when an experience intrigues them.” In other words, children learn most effectively when they interact with and are interested in the material they are learning rather than have it presented to them. This engagement works effectively not only in the classroom, but also at home. Cook-Cottone (2004) suggests that “the family (as the primary intersection of self, others, society, and culture) is uniquely positioned to efficiently and effectively contribute to a child’s knowledge acquisition.”
How do we facilitate the widely supported constructivism approach to learning? Little Pickle Press delivers the tools necessary for the child to have his or her own stimulating explorations and learning experiences. We create high-quality books, music and posters, and are developing flash cards, puzzles, iPad applications, content for interactive whiteboards, etc., to engage children playfully through multiple modalities. We will also soon be producing videos to show parents and teachers how best to use our materials to engage with children.
What constitutes a meaningful topic? One that is substantive and serves as a conversation starter between a teacher and a student or a parent and a child. Our first topics included being global and green. This summer we will release a book about being present. This fall we explore how to grow and strengthen your brain for learning in a groundbreaking book written by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D. (www.deakgroup.com), and how to cherish Mother Earth in a lyrical story written by Land Wilson.
Little Pickle Press leads by example. We donate 10 percent of the proceeds of our What Does It Mean to Be…?® series of books to the Starlight Children’s Foundation (www.starlight.org). We print our materials on recycled paper with soy inks, and we choose vendors who are like-minded. We are a certified B Corporation (www.bcorporation.net), which means that we use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.
In conclusion, Little Pickle Press is the media creator for the conscientious parent and educator. We want to make your all-important job of shaping children easier. To do so, we need your feedback. Please sign up to receive our eNewsletter at www.littlepicklepress.com and/or our blog at www.littlepicklepress.blogspot.com. Then, please send us your comments on our products, your suggestions for other ones, your best learning practices in the classroom or at home, the meaningful topics you would like for us to develop resources for, and your ideas about how we can be serving you better. We value your opinions, and we are listening.
Branscombe, N.A., K. Castle, A. G. Dorsey, E. Surbeck, and J.B. Taylor. (2003). Early Childhood Curriculum: A Constructivist Perspective. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
Cook-Cottone, C. (2004). Constructivism In Family Literacy Practices: Parents As Mentors. Reading Improvement, 41(4), 208-216.
Lisenbee, P. (2009). Whiteboards and web sites: Digital Tools For The Early Childhood Curriculum. Young Children, 64(6), 92-95.
Rana has written her way through life — as a student, a lawyer, an investment banker, a private equity investor, and now as an author and publisher of children’s picture books. Her interests include practicing yoga, reading non-fiction and children’s books, dreaming, effecting positive change, and, of course, being global, green, and present. She lives in Belvedere, California with her husband and their three Little Pickles.
Photos by Dan Connor